Amy Sweeney has spent the past nine years building AMMO into a Hollywood restaurant with an ever-increasing commitment to seasonal, market-driven ingredients. She and executive chef Julia Wolfson have even extended that focus to the bottle. As a result, AMMO now features Small-Batch Socials, a tasting series that spotlights small-production liquor, wine and beer producers. On April 23, AMMO hosted Scott Haro from Tequila Ocho, which utilizes winemaking principles like terroir and vintages to good effect.
Third generation tequilero Felipe Camarena launched Tequila Ocho with his seven brothers and sisters. Since there are eight Camarenas, the company became “Ocho.” On 8/8/08, they launched their first line of tequilas made with agave culled from a single field in the Los Altos region of Jalisco. The area resides 6500 feet above sea level and is known for its iron-rich red soil. Tequila is typically distilled for consistency, but Tequila Ocho prefers “the nuanced flavors captured from distinct estates and vintages.”
Haro paired each tequila with a sangrita “shooter” created by Pastry Chef Agustin Rodriguez. Haro said that in Mexico, sangrita chasers are designed to enhance the flavor of the tequila. This delivery method probably undercut the impact of the tequila, but the original pairings left a lasting impression.
The Camarenas harvested agave for the Plata from their Carrizal estate, a field known for its intensely sweet agave. The first sangrita was a refreshing complement to the smooth tequila, combining cucumber, mint, lemon and agave nectar.
The 2008 Reposado’s agaves were also harvested from Carrizal estate, with tan color. In order to be considered Reposado, tequila is aged anywhere from two months to a year. Tequila Ocho’s Reposado is aged for two months and ocho days in American white oak barrels. The accompanying sangrita was sweet and spicy, involving tangerine, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice.
Ocho’s Añejo agave originated on the fertile soil of El Vergel estate. The amber-hued liquid had more spice than the Reposado, so this tequila begged for a sweet sangrita to provide balance. However, this sangrita was intensely sweet, incorporating tomato juice, coriander, ancho chile and lime juice.
The event cost $20 and included appetizers, beginning with plates of plump marinated olives and almonds.
We also received bites of juicy, rosemary-speared steak; bruschetta slathered with guacamole and radicchio; and spoonfuls of Kanpachi crudo with blood orange, avocado, jalapeno and cilantro.
AMMO’s initial Small-Batch Social was a bargain given the quality of the tequila, the unique sangrita pairings and the amount of passed appetizers. Future Small-Batch Socials are definitely worth tracking on the AMMO website.